The temptation to cast the GOP as chasing off Trump opponent Kinzinger is too great to let facts enter the discussion.
All it takes to place Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor In Chief at The Atlantic, into the proper context is to know his methodology. Goldberg was behind one of the most blatant cases of media malpractice last year when he resurrected the false story of Donald Trump insulting the honor of fallen WW2 soldiers while in Europe, back in 2018. By offering nothing more than claims by anonymous witnesses he was celebrated by Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources, while his network claimed to have verified the story with its own sourcing.
The report had been originally debunked then, and it took mere days for Goldberg’s Exclusive to be entirely discredited by those who not only were in the audience with Trump at the time but were willing to go on record in saying so. Now Goldberg is attempting to burnish the image of the growing-more-tarnished acerbic Never-Trump Republican, Adam Kinzinger, and his avoidance of facts is just as active today.
There is little surprise why Goldberg would be running PR for someone you normally would not expect him to be swooning over, a Republican. Kinzinger however has been spending his time cultivating a new image for himself as the noble warrior for truth within his party, and the Democrats and the media indulge his ego in this regard. The opening paragraph of Goldberg’s newsletter alone displays his trend towards fiction. It is an attempt to paint the self-described irascible thorn in Donald Trump’s side as something apart from what he is.
Political courage is a fascinating phenomenon, particularly at moments when it is largely absent. Which is why I’m so interested in the imperiled career of Representative Adam Kinzinger, the Illinois Republican who has described Donald Trump’s demagogy for what it is—a danger to the republic—and who possesses spine enough to excoriate members of his own party for succumbing to Trump’s imbecilic authoritarianism.
To call Kinzinger’s posturing this year anything approaching “courage” is itself laughable. Yes, he opposes Trump. He voted in favor of the President being impeached, he has been boldly critical of his supposed involvement with the Capitol riot, and he has been a token fixture on the ensuing Jan. 6 Commission, a post for which he lobbied. Kinzinger took all those actions from the position of comfort, not bravery, as he sits in a heavily red district with little true opposition.
One need only look over the media and political approval he has garnered as a result, Goldberg’s glowing graciousness being only the latest. Adam is a regular feature guest on CNN and MSNBC, where he makes his party opposition lectures and bathes in the adulation from the pundits. The Democrats, from Nancy Pelosi down, consider him an ally. But Kinzinger is exposed in the same way that Liz Cheney has been; they both are cloaked in their anti-Trump nobility and yet they fail to do anything beyond this.
Cheney was stripped of her committee assignments, not for daring to be critical of the former President but because that is all she does. Look at her press conference on the morning of the vote to remove her from her leadership role — at once she claimed to want to lead the party with an eye on the future, then launched immediately into criticisms of Trump and pledging to do all she can to stop him from further leadership. She wants to take the GOP forward by looking back.
Kinzinger is no different in that he is full of criticism about what the party is doing wrong as a Trump entity, but he never delivers anything of a constructive nature in his messaging. All his words are designed to prod excitement from pundits, leading to him receiving praise from Mika Brzezinski or Jake Tapper, while accepting the label of being a brave true conservative in a corrupted party. Note with irony that the media harbor no such praise for “brave” Democrats like Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin for bucking their party leadership, but Adam earns their affection.
It never dawns on Adam to ponder what it means to have a Jeffrey Goldberg declaring what proper conservatism looks like. For his part, Goldberg erects a house of cards in testament to Kinzinger, constructed entirely of those which are dealt from the bottom of the deck. He starts with his used car salesman tactics in selling the man on character of which he does not possess, doing so by casting his party as the demon. “Most Republicans would sooner cast people like Kinzinger into the wilderness than risk ostracism.” This sets the table for the false premise to come.
After giving the Illinois representative column inches to rail against his own party, further painting the image of the noble warrior which does not actually exist, Goldberg sends forth this garbage claim. “Kinzinger says he’s at peace with the idea that he may be voted out of Congress by his fellow Republicans.” He may be at peace over his future, but both men are at odds with the causation. It turns out that Kinzinger is being victimized by the party from which he has been attempting to win favor — the Democrats.
The GOP is not in the process of primarying a serious Republican challenger to Kinzinger. His 12th district is not only a solid red, but he coasted to victory in the 2020 race, dominating Democrat challenger Dani Brzozowski by almost 30 percentage points. Even if Trump installed an opponent it would take prodigious political heft to unseat the man who won with a greater percentage in his district than Trump himself, outperforming the President by more than seven points.
Kinzinger is more than secure, except for one problem — those Democrats he has been palling around with for most of this year have turned on the man. They might appreciate all he does for them at the moment, but there is far more value in seeing that there are fewer (R)-type names in Congress, so Democrats, who control the Illinois legislature, are looking to eliminate Kinzinger’s seat through redistricting. Goldberg either knows this is the reality and is lying, or he does not know this, which impugns his capabilities as an editor. Whichever one is the case, it completely undercuts this attempt at glamorizing the politician
As for other options that Kinzinger can take, they are severely limited. A senatorial or gubernatorial run in a blue state is relatively impossible without the Republican party supporting him, and there is little interest from the leadership. Why would they support someone financially who works against the party’s interests? That’s the funny thing about intraparty contrarianism — your political career ends up with fewer avenues of opportunity when you have been burning bridges.